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Four Simple Ways to Lose Customers [Slide Show]

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Slide 1 of
120628-1 Intro

I'm not a difficult customer: I have reasonable expectations, I understand that frontline staff can do only what management allows, and I'm a brand loyalist who isn't quick to abandon a product or service I like.

But I'm unforgiving when customer service fails to meet basic levels of common courtesy. And I won't make a fuss about leaving; it's not my job to lecture a company on good retail manners. I'll simply leave.

So, which customer service foibles drive otherwise easygoing customers like me into the arms of the competition? A few companies have lost my business by doing the following four things.

120628-2 1. Making Me Constantly Repeat Myself

1. Making Me Constantly Repeat Myself

The customer service call begins with an automated system that prompts me to enter my account number. Fine. Then, I'm put on hold, told my call is important, and transferred to a live representative who asks for the account number I just entered. Not fine. She also asks me to describe the problem I'm having. Then, I'm put on hold, told my call is important, and transferred to another representative who asks me to describe the problem I just described to the previous representative. Really not fine.

Stop telling me my call is important, and actually treat me as if my call is important.

120628-3 2. Acting Like I'm Not There

2. Acting Like I'm Not There

I went to a big box retailer last month with a few questions about car stereos. Only one salesperson was in the area, helping an older couple choose a navigation system. The couple was clearly baffled by the technology, and I didn't mind waiting my turn.

But I did mind when the wait went on, ad infinitum, while the salesperson and customer discussed their shared interest in Civil War history, and the salesperson didn't once acknowledge my presence. At a very minimum, glance in my direction to tell me you'll help me soon or find someone who can.

120628-4 3. Trying to Sell Me Something I Don't Need

3. Trying to Sell Me Something I Don't Need

The aggressive up-sell of unnecessary products and services at quick oil-change shops put me in the habit of bluntly telling employees: "I want an oil change. That's it. I don't want to hear about an air filter or a transmission flush or anything else."

So I was amazed when I discovered a shop that didn't bother me about anything I didn't actually need. And I was a loyal customer until that shop, too, slipped into an up-sell routine designed to maximize its profits at my expense.

120628-5 4. Asking for an Instant Evaluation of Customer Service

4. Asking for an Instant Evaluation of Customer Service

Being asked "How would you rate your service today?" by the person who just delivered that service puts me awkwardly on the spot. Furthermore, I'm not convinced that this little exercise in anecdotal feedback gathers reliable, actionable data.

The drive-thru window of a fast-food restaurant I often went to for a soda also began asking for my immediate feedback. I'm not sure whether the restaurant is still doing it, because I stopped going there.

Slide 1 of 5
Christian Gulliksen is a writer who has authored several of the Get to the Po!nt newsletters for MarketingProfs. A former editor at Robb Report, he has also contributed to Worth, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter.

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  • by Rich Thu Jun 28, 2012 via web

    It is amazing how we all feel this way. One thing I'd add to the last slide is that annoying popup on a website that asks to evaluate the site and your experience on it right after you log on. How do I know? I just got here.

  • by Michael O'Daniel Thu Jun 28, 2012 via web

    Just having to deal with a telephone tree -- especially a voice-prompt with no option for keying in the information -- is a deal-breaker for me.

  • by Datis Thu Jun 28, 2012 via web

    Re Slide #4:

    Unless your a mechanic or very handy when it comes to knowing cars this is a very ridiculous point. Yes, some mechanics try to upsell things that are not needed ... but if your mechanic does a multipoint inspection while doing an oil change on your vehicle and sees your air filter is black and needs to be replaced, they wouldn't be doing there job if they didn't tell you. A dirty air filter reduces gas efficiency significantly and costs you more money at the pump. If they don't tell you about something that could be wrong with your vehicle and 2 weeks later something goes wrong... then they'll come back blaming you because you performed and oil change on them and before that there car was running perfectly fine. I agree that pushing any sale on someone is fundamentally wrong, but to ignore a problem is even worse. In such circumstances, a mechanic should communicate what is wrong, explain what the significance of the situation is and leave it to the customer to decide whether or not they want to perform it then and there, get a second opinion, get the parts themselves etc. Your "wonderful" mechanic was a doing a very lousy job.

  • by Amy S. Thu Jun 28, 2012 via web

    I'll add one more to the pile: the annoying "remember me" box on websites that require a user name and password. If it says it's going to remember me, why is it that it never, ever does?

  • by Mike S. Thu Jun 28, 2012 via web

    Slide 4 is absolutely ridiculous. You don't want to be upsold? Then don't shop in corporate America. It is the duty of every company to maximize the profits and (subsequently) the value of the company to the shareholders. Upselling is an important part of this process. Plus, how do you know what you need when it comes to certain products or services. Not to say that the customer isn't right, but do you know everything there is to know about car maintenance? Did you consider that maybe the oil mechanic might know more about what your car needs to run most efficiently; moreso than you? And so what if his suggestions come in the form of upselling? It's their right and their duty to make a profit. I bet you wouldn't be complaining about their suggestion if they offered it to you for free. However, if their suggestion is warrented, who are you to balk at the way they offer it to you? This it not to say consumers shouldn't do their due dilligence, they certainly should. However, upselling can be a valuable resource and, at the very least, a starting point to evaluating these goods and services, and if they are truly warrented or not. Besides, you don't complain to the McDonald's employee when s/he asks you if you "want fries with that", do you?

  • by Christian Gulliksen Fri Jun 29, 2012 via web

    I'm not griping about upsell, per se. I'm griping about the upsell of products and services *I don't need*. It's a big difference. And the fact is that I've almost never had any recommended upsell from a quick oil change shop check out with my mechanic. Last year, for example, I was told that all of my belts needed immediate replacement; he warned that I might not even make it home. I went directly to my mechanic, who said it was utter nonsense. I've gone 20,000 miles since then without event.

    So it goes to the credibility of the upsell. And in the case of quick oil change shops, most don't -- in my experience -- have any. I've been told too frequently that my well-maintained car needs something it doesn't. If I were being told about necessary products and services, I would be very open to upsell -- as I am with my trusted mechanic, who gets an automatic okay on any recommendation.

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